TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan suffered an opening session blow on Saturday when their gold medal hope Daiya Seto failed to qualify for the men’s 400 metres medley final after finishing ninth in the heats.
The 27-year-old Seto, the world champion and top ranked in the event, was the bronze medallist in Rio five years ago and favourite to win gold in Sunday’s final before his shock exit.
“I miscalculated and didn’t put everything into the race like I did in Rio,” Seto said.
The Japanese hope will also compete in the 200 metres butterfly at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre and said he would need to refocus quickly. “I will just have to put this out of my mind,” he added.
Australia’s Brendon Smith was fastest with a time of 4:09.27 followed by New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt and American Chase Kalisz in what proved to be a highly competitive heat.
Britain’s Max Litchfield pipped Seto to eighth place by three tenths of a second.
China’s Zhang Yufei tied with Australia’s Emma McKeon to go through fastest for the women’s 100m butterfly semi-finals in 55.82, followed by defending champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden on 56.18.
“The adrenaline was pretty high being my first race and my first race of the Olympics,” McKeon said. “I felt it went pretty well.”
Germany’s Henning Bennet Muhlleitner qualified fastest in the men’s 400m freestyle in the third fastest time in the world this year, finishing in 3:43.67.
He was followed by Austrian Felix Auboeck 3:43.91, with the top-ranked Australians Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin safely through to Sunday’s final both with 3.45.20.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Martin Petty and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Ken Ferris)